The question I’m answering in this podcast came from a lady who read this article: The Simplest Counseling Advice You’ll Ever Receive, from which came the following quote:
Discerning whether a person is a Christian must be the first place you begin your soul care endeavors. If you don’t, you will be laying your wise counsel on top of a powerless individual, who will only be able to change according to his old, self-reliant methods. – Rick Thomas (From this article)
Assessing a person’s salvation is subjective at best, but you must discern as much as you can because finding your starting point will determine how you proceed with the individual.
Excellent article as a whole, but the quote above especially struck a chord with me. I understand when lost people come into my office they are there for the Word, and I have seen the transformation into becoming a Christian.
Some folks have said that you can’t use God’s Word to help unregenerate people because you discern the Bible spiritually according to 1 Corinthians 2:14.
Teaching that a non-Christian can’t understand the Bible is unwise and unhelpful. All of us “understood” and responded to the Bible before we were Christians. You can teach principles, concepts, and ideas from the Bible to anyone who will listen.
But sometimes I don’t see them changing. So I’ve tried to still share that “wisdom” with them. But you’re right; it just doesn’t “take” with some of them. Most of the time I keep plugging along hoping and praying for their salvation.
It reminds me of the prodigal in Luke 15:11-17 in that you don’t know with some people if they have just begun their wayward journey (verse 11) or are they coming to an end of themselves (verse 17).
Your job does not require you know “where they are,” but you are supposed to water and plant by faith while trusting God to bring the growth (2 Corinthians 3:6).
But then I question myself, am I doing the right thing to continue seeing them at this point in their life? That is a tension that I sometimes face, and pray about what to do. It’s discouraging.
It depends. Seeing a person once is okay. You have the opportunity to water and plant. The issue then becomes how long should you continue meeting with a person who is not changing or shows no interest in improving.
Do they want your attention or your care? Perhaps you can direct them to resources. Sometimes folks want to meet to be meeting. This type of situation could be a stewardship issue where you’re wasting your time.
And I wonder if I am wasting our time and their money. Also, is it helping them to be in the counseling relationship, or am I standing in the way of their genuinely reaching the end of themselves to look to God? What I always come back to is that God is sovereign.
Once you work through what I’ve outlined thus far, you’ll know if you’re “standing in the way,” though standing in the way is not the best way to frame the situation because God is sovereign.
In the most theologically technical sense, you cannot stand in the way because God is sovereign. You can make mistakes, but the truth is that God will save this person if He chooses to impose Himself on this person.
You don’t want to “presume” on God’s grace (take for granted by doing what you want to do), but you’re right; God is sovereign. (And, for the record, I know you won’t presume on God’s grace because you’re a caring soul.)
I wait for Him to either leave them in counseling or remove them. In other words, I don’t decide to stop seeing this type of counselee. I wait.
You do wait, but you also have a responsibility, which I’ve outlined here.
But it’s tough. And some of the biggest struggles I’ve had as a counselor has been over this issue.
Yes, I understand. Like most caring counselors, your temptation will be “over-caring” not “under-caring.”
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).